Until recently, I have never been a big fan of science fiction stories. Oftentimes, they follow the same basic storyline without much variation. Our young protagonist and their battle-hardened mentor set off across the cosmos on some mysterious mission, with a generic love story and plot twist thrown in. However, this summer, I picked up a book titled Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir. Weir is best known for his 2011 novel The Martian. His latest book, Project Hail Mary, does indeed follow the typical “protagonist sets off across the cosmos on a dangerous mission to save humanity” storyline, but with some interesting twists thrown in, making the novel far more interesting.
Project Hail Mary centers around Ryland Grace, who wakes up on a spaceship with no idea who or where he is. Slowly, over the course of the novel, he begins to remember bits and pieces, until eventually he has pieced together that the sun is being consumed by a previously undiscovered organism. He has been sent to space to find a method of stopping this organism, named astrophage. While this still feels a bit standard for the science fiction genre, the novel delivers interesting twists to keep it from becoming predictable.
First, Ryland’s companion is not a mentor, or even a scientist like himself. In fact, the other two scientists he was sent to space with died on the voyage. Instead, he meets an excitable spider-like alien which he nicknames Rocky, who is looking for a way to defend his own planet from astrophage. The two bond, forming an unlikely friendship in the depths of space. Next, Ryland did not go to space willingly. Most sci-fi protagonists have a hero complex and want nothing more than embarking on a dangerous mission. However, in Ryland’s case, he was forced to go to space. Project Hail Mary delivers twists like this throughout, subverting classic science fiction tropes and keeping the novel new, fun, and exciting.
Finally, Project Hail Mary is undeniably funny, which is rare for a science fiction book. Weir is known for his comedic writing in his two previous books, The Martian and Artemis. This writing style continues to shine through in Project Hail Mary. The book is joking throughout, having comic relief throughout the book. Weir masterfully manages to write a serious novel, where the main character experiences serious emotions and growth, while keeping the tone of the novel funny. Project Hail Mary is a new, interesting, and funny story in the time-honored genre of science fiction, which is no easy feat.